Self-Help ‘Guru’ Tony Robbins Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Self-Help ‘Guru’ Tony Robbins Accused of Sexual Misconduct May 21, 2019
Tony Robbins at an event. Photo credit Tony Robbins official Facebook page.

Self-help Guru Tony Robbins is facing backlash after Buzzfeed published a damning article accusing him of decades sexually inappropriate behavior. In the article, numerous women shared unwanted advances by Robbins. A former security guard blew the whistle on Robbins and provided transcripts, audio, and video proving Robbins’ behavior crossed lines and at times was extremely abusive.

Tony Robbins has amassed a fortune by traveling the world and holding self-help workshops. For decades, Robbins has used these workshops to downplay domestic violence, rape, and demonize victimhood. Shockingly, people pay him thousands of dollars to attend workshops and seminars.

Robbins has no formal education in psychology, nor does he hold a college degree. Without a single credential, Robbins has convinced millions of people that he has the answers for life’s biggest problems.

In 2018, Robbins was caught on video trashing the #MeToo movement. During a packed seminar, a woman criticized him for minimizing the experience of sexual assault victims. Robbins responded that victimhood only serves the victim. He argued that victims coming forward to accuse people only serves their ego and need for attention.

Naturally, his statements made media waves, and he received considerable pushback. However, none of that changed his power or position in the self-help world. Rather, he’s continued to hold seminars that cost thousands of dollars and has become a millionaire many times over.

The Buzzfeed article is one of the first times anyone has heard from former employees of Robbins. Many of these employees had extremely unflattering things to say about the self-proclaimed “guru.”

Former female staff described Robbins’ relentless pursual of them. Despite the women declining his sexual advances, the women all allege Robbins’ continued to pursue them. Several of the women described being terminated for no reason after refusing his advances.

Former assistants described having to take notes for Robbins while he was in the showers. One woman told Buzzfeed that she had to pull his “naked butt” out of bed and get him in the shower every day.

A former security guard Gary King blew the whistle on all of Robbins’ bad behavior. King spent nearly two decades working beside Robbins. The security guard described Robbins as a man addicted to power and women.

Not only did King feel Robbins’ behavior with women was inappropriate, but he also saw the damage Robbins’ seminars did to mentally unstable people.

King said he soon found that a key part of his job involved responding to calls about participants who had threatened or attempted suicide or needed to be hospitalized after suffering mental breakdowns. At one 1995 Life Mastery event in Hawaii, he said he had to intervene after one participant started biting members of the hotel’s security staff and guests. “I was dealing with crisis and emotional meltdowns from the start,” he told BuzzFeed News.

He said he witnessed people become burned and hurt during “fire walking” exercises. Additionally, King discussed Robbins’ using sexually explicit language during seminars to “process” attendees. In one memo provided by King, Robbins admits to helping a woman touch her breast. Another excerpt from another workshop, Robbins told a rape survivor that she manipulated and controlled men through her ‘victimhood.’

The examples of Robbins diminishing and minimizing sexual assault are countless. Additionally, the leaked video of his #MeToo rant further perpetuates the idea that victims of sexual assault are manipulative and controlling. His toxic belief that people need to “get over” their attacks is simplistic and dangerous.

Another alarming example Buzzfeed addressed related to Robbins’ comments to a woman in a verbally and physically abusive relationship. The woman told Robbins that her husband used emotionally abusive language. During his “processing” with the woman, Robbins said to her that emotional abuse isn’t real. Additionally, he accused the woman of playing a role in the violence.

“What the f–k is emotional abuse?” he asked the woman. “Are we that f–king weak that someone can’t tell you with passion what they f–king feel without them abusing you?”

“She’s focused on her needs,” he went on. “We’ve not heard one thing in the last 12 minutes about his needs. And we’re already characterizing it as emotional violence. There’s no f–king thing.”

“There has been physical violence,” the woman clarified soon after.

“What led to that?” Robbins shot back. “What role did you play? I’m not suggesting there’s any excuse for hitting a woman, so hear me, but I also want you to know that people don’t just act a certain f–king way.”

Robbins’ demonstrates with his words that he lacks any understanding of basic psychology. Instead, he holds tight to a myth that people live in “victimhood.” Buzzfeed’s article shows how the ‘guru’ exploits and manipulates vulnerable people through his teachings.

The self-help industry is a dangerous field that has no government regulations. Anyone can become a self-help “guru.” In the digital age, more and more people are using social media to build their platforms to teach and coach others.

Despite all the damning evidence, Robbins’ legal team denied any wrong-doing. Additionally, they denied Robbins’ was every sexually inappropriate with any women. However, the transcripts released by Buzzfeed speak for themselves. Tony Robbins’ is a man that believes his hype. He uses over-simplified theories to “help” people recover. All the while, he collects millions of dollars selling his snake-oil.

Robbins’ responded by publishing an open letter on Medium. He wrote,

I have been the target of a year-long investigation by BuzzFeed. Unfortunately, your organization has made it clear to my team that you intend to move forward with publishing an inaccurate, agenda-driven version of the past, pierced with falsehoods. It is intended to disparage me personally, my family, my life’s work, and the efforts of the millions of individuals around the globe who have taken this journey with me over the last 40-plus years…

Millions of people have experienced life-changing breakthroughs and transformations on our journey of growth and I invite them to join me now to stop BuzzFeed and others from tearing our society down by denying and mischaracterizing the truth. Enough is enough.”

Whether or not this article will finally expose Tony Robbins for the snake-oil salesman he is, he remains to be seen. However, there is hope that more people become aware of the dangers of trusting a self-proclaimed ‘guru’ without any educational background.

Read the full Buzzfeed article here.

*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.

She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis on The Non-Sequitur Channel. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.

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  • Robbins ideas about victimhood are a lot like the right wing line about how any sort of government assistance makes the clients dependant, and bringing up cases of abuse by the powerful is “playing the victim card.” Yet I’m sure a lot of people, left and right alike, think Robbins is some sort of liberal. After all he hobnobs around with people like Oprah.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    Unfortunately, your organization has made it clear to my team that you intend to move forward with publishing an inaccurate, agenda-driven version of the past, pierced with falsehoods.

    Oh Tony, when will you realize that this is no smear campaign, but the inevitable result of your own attention seeking impulses? It will never go away until you first free yourself from your own victim mentality.

  • persephone

    I read the whole article, and even some of the people complaining of abuse still felt Robbins had helped them. Ugh.

  • Lucy

    I am beyond unsurprised to hear about abusive behavior done by a self-help guru. After all, 99% of “how to be successful” Internet articles are clearly written by guys with attitudes like Robbins’, because they so often defend assholes (even in articles with such headers as “cut toxic people out of your life”), tell people to stop being victims, and otherwise use the same old tired kind of rhetoric that virtually every other self-help guru does, and, frankly, outside of disabled Tumblr, finding a “how to be successful” article that can actually be useful to most people (and where someone can take a small piece of the advice from it as needed and still make some improvements to their lives) is like finding a piece of gold.

    So small wonder that one of these “gurus” got caught being a sexually predatory douchebag. I’m just surprised more of them didn’t get caught doing that kind of thing.

  • Brian Curtis

    But… but everything Robbins does is always inappropriate. Everything! Were people not aware of this?